Full text of "oconnor"
A Good Man Is
Hard To Find
by Flannery O'Connor
edited by Raymond Soulard, Jr.
& Kassandra Kramer
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Portland, O r e g o k
A Good Man is
Hard to Find
by Flannery O'Connor
edited by Raymond Soulard, Jr.
& Kassandra Kramer
A Good Man is Hard to Find
by Flannery O'Connor
Burning Man Books is
an imprint of
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Seattle, Washington 98107
This volume was composed
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for teaching us how to make books
like this one.
The grandmother didn't want to go to Florida. She
wanted to visit some of her connections in east
Tennessee and she was seizing at every chance to change
Bailey's mind. Bailey was the son she lived with, her only boy. He
was sitting on the edge of his chair at the table, bent over the
orange sports section of the Journal. "Now look here, Bailey," she
said, "see here, read this," and she stood with one hand on her thin
hip and the other rattling the newspaper at his bald head. "Here
this fellow that calls himself The Misfit is aloose from the Federal
Pen and headed toward Florida and you read here what it says he
did to these people. Just you read it. I wouldn't take my children in
any direction with a criminal like that aloose in it. I couldn't answer
to my conscience if I did."
Bailey didn't look up from his reading so she wheeled around
then and faced the children's mother, a young woman in slacks,
whose face was as broad and innocent as a cabbage and was tied
around with a green head-kerchief that had two points on the top
like rabbit's ears. She was sitting on the sofa, feeding the baby his
apricots out of a jar. "The children have been to Florida before,"
the old lady said. "You all ought to take them somewhere else for a
change so they would see different parts of the world and be broad.
They never have been to east Tennessee."
The children's mother didn't seem to hear her but the eight-
year-old boy, John Wesley, a stocky child with glasses, said, "If you
don't want to go to Florida, why dontcha stay at home?" He and
the little girl, June Star, were reading the funny papers on the floor.
"She wouldn't stay at home to be queen for a day," June Star
said without raising her yellow head.
"Yes and what would you do if this fellow, The Misfit, caught
you?" the grandmother asked.
"I'd smack his face," John Wesley said.
"She wouldn't stay at home for a million bucks," June Star
said. "Afraid she'd miss something. She has to go everywhere we
A Good Man is Hard to Find • 5
"All right, Miss," the grandmother said. "Just remember that
the next time you want me to curl your hair."
June Star said her hair was naturally curly.
The next morning the grandmother was the first one in the
car, ready to go. She had her big black valise that looked like the
head of a hippopotamus in one corner, and underneath it she was
hiding a basket with Pitty Sing, the cat, in it. She didn't intend for
the cat to be left alone in the house for three days because he would
miss her too much and she was afraid he might brush against one
of the gas burners and accidentally asphyxiate himself. Her son,
Bailey, didn't like to arrive at a motel with a cat.
She sat in the middle of the back seat with John Wesley and
June Star on either side of her. Bailey and the children's mother
and the baby sat in front and they left Atlanta at eight forty-five
with the mileage on the car at 55890. The grandmother wrote this
down because she thought it would be interesting to say how many
miles they had been when they got back. It took them twenty
minutes to reach the outskirts of the city.
The old lady settled herself comfortably, removing her white
cotton gloves and putting them up with her purse on the shelf in
front of the back window. The children's mother still had on slacks
and still had her head tied up in a green kerchief, but the
grandmother had on a navy blue straw sailor hat with a bunch of
white violets on the brim and a navy blue dress with a small white
dot in the print. Her collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed
with lace and at her neckline she had pinned a purple spray of
cloth violets containing a sachet. In case of an accident, anyone
seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was
She said she thought it was going to be a good day for driving,
neither too hot nor too cold, and she cautioned Bailey that the
speed limit was fifty-five miles an hour and that the patrolmen hid
themselves behind billboards and small clumps of trees and sped
out after you before you had a chance to slow down. She pointed
6 • Flannery O'Connor
out interesting details of the scenery: Stone Mountain; the blue
granite that in some places came up to both sides of the highway;
the brilliant red clay banks slightly streaked with purple; and the
various crops that made rows of green lace-work on the ground.
The trees were full of silver-white sunlight and the meanest of
them sparkled. The children were reading comic magazines and
their mother had gone back to sleep.
"Let's go through Georgia fast so we won't have to look at it
much," John Wesley said.
"If I were a little boy," said the grandmother, "I wouldn't
talk about my native state that way. Tennessee has the mountains
and Georgia has the hills."
"Tennessee is just a hillbilly dumping ground," John Wesley
said, "and Georgia is a lousy state too."
"You said it," June Star said.
"In my time," said the grandmother, folding her thin veined
fingers, "children were more respectful of their native states and
their parents and everything else. People did right then. Oh look
at the cute little pickaninny!" she said and pointed to a Negro
child standing in the door of a shack. "Wouldn't that make a picture,
now?" she asked and they all turned and looked at the little Negro
out of the back window. He waved.
"He didn't have any britches on," June Star said.
"He probably didn't have any," the grandmother explained.
"Little niggers in the country don't have things like we do. If I
could paint, I'd paint that picture," she said.
The children exchanged comic books.
The grandmother offered to hold the baby and the children's
mother passed him over the front seat to her. She set him on her
knee and bounced him and told him about the things they were
passing. She rolled her eyes and screwed up her mouth and stuck
her leathery thin face into his smooth bland one. Occasionally he
gave her a faraway smile. They passed a large cotton field with five
or six graves fenced in the middle of it, like a small island. "Look at
A Good Man is Hard to Find • 7
the graveyard!" the grandmother said, pointing it out. "That was
the old family burying ground. That belonged to the plantation."
"Where's the plantation?" John Wesley asked.
"Gone With the Wind," said the grandmother. "Ha. Ha."
When the children finished all the comic books they had
brought, they opened the lunch and ate it. The grandmother ate a
peanut butter sandwich and an olive and would not let the children
throw the box and the paper napkins out the window. When there
was nothing else to do they played a game by choosing a cloud and
making the other two guess what shape it suggested. John Wesley
took one the shape of a cow and June Star guessed a cow and John
Wesley said, no, an automobile, and June Star said he didn't play
fair, and they began to slap each other over the grandmother.
The grandmother said she would tell them a story if they
would keep quiet. When she told a story, she rolled her eyes and
waved her head and was very dramatic. She said once when she
was a maiden lady she had been courted by a Mr. Edgar Atkins
Teagarden from Jasper, Georgia. She said he was a very good-looking
man and a gentleman and that he brought her a watermelon every
Saturday afternoon with his initials cut in it, E. A. T Well, one
Saturday, she said, Mr. Teagarden brought the watermelon and
there was nobody at home and he left it on the front porch and
returned in his buggy to Jasper, but she never got the watermelon,
she said, because a nigger boy ate it when he saw the initials, E. A.
T! This story tickled John Wesley's funny bone and he giggled and
giggled but June Star didn't think it was any good. She said she
wouldn't marry a man that just brought her a watermelon on
Saturday. The grandmother said she would have done well to marry
Mr. Teagarden because he was a gentleman and had bought Coca-
Cola stock when it first came out and that he had died only a few
years ago, a very wealthy man.
They stopped at The Tower for barbecued sandwiches. The
Tower was a part stucco and part wood filling station and dance
hall set in a clearing outside of Timothy. A fat man named Red
8 • Flannery O'Connor
Sammy Butts ran it and there were signs stuck here and there on
the building and for miles up and down the highway saying, TRY
RED SAMMY'S FAMOUS BARBECUE. NONE LIKE
FAMOUS RED SAMMY'S! RED SAM! THE FAT BOY WITH
THE HAPPY LAUGH. A VETERAN! RED SAMMY'S YOUR
Red Sammy was lying on the bare ground outside The Tower
with his head under a truck while a gray monkey about a foot
high, chained to a small chinaberry tree, chattered nearby. The
monkey sprang back into the tree and got on the highest limb as
soon as he saw the children jump out of the car and run toward
Inside, The Tower was a long dark room with a counter at
one end and tables at the other and dancing space in the middle.
They all sat down at a board table next to the nickelodeon and
Red Sam's wife, a tall burnt-brown woman with hair and eyes lighter
than her skin, came and took their order. The children's mother
put a dime in the machine and played "The Tennessee Waltz," and
the grandmother said that tune always made her want to dance.
She asked Bailey if he would like to dance but he only glared at
her. He didn't have a naturally sunny disposition like she did and
trips made him nervous. The grandmother's brown eyes were very
bright. She swayed her head from side to side and pretended she
was dancing in her chair. June Star said play something she could
tap to so the children's mother put in another dime and played a
fast number and June Star stepped out onto the dance floor and
did her tap routine.
"Ain't she cute?" Red Sam's wife said, leaning over the counter.
"Would you like to come be my little girl?"
"No I certainly wouldn't," June Star said. "I wouldn't live in
a broken-down place like this for a minion bucks!" and she ran
back to the table.
"Ain't she cute?" the woman repeated, stretching her mouth
A Good Man is Hard to Find • 9
"Arn't you ashamed?" hissed the grandmother.
Red Sam came in and told his wife to quit lounging on the
counter and hurry up with these people's order. His khaki trousers
reached just to his hip bones and his stomach hung over them like
a sack of meal swaying under his shirt. He came over and sat down
at a table nearby and let out a combination sigh and yodel. "You
can't win," he said. "You can't win," and he wiped his sweating red
face off with a gray handkerchief. "These days you don't know
who to trust," he said. "Ain't that the truth?"
"People are certainly not nice like they used to be," said the
"Two fellers come in here last week," Red Sammy said,
"driving a Chrysler. It was a old beat-up car but it was a good one
and these boys looked all right to me. Said they worked at the mill
and you know I let them fellers charge the gas they bought? Now
why did I do that?"
"Because you're a good man!" the grandmother said at once.
"Yes'm, I suppose so," Red Sam said as if he were struck with
His wife brought the orders, carrying the five plates all at
once without a tray, two in each hand and one balanced on her
arm. "It isn't a soul in this green world of God's that you can trust,"
she said. "And I don't count nobody out of that, not nobody," she
repeated, looking at Red Sammy.
"Did you read about that criminal, The Misfit, that's
escaped?" asked the grandmother.
"I wouldn't be a bit surprised if he didn't attact this place
right here," said the woman. "If he hears about it being here, I
wouldn't be none surprised to see him. If he hears it's two cent in
the cash register, I wouldn't be a tall surprised if he . . ."
"That'll do," Red Sam said. "Go bring these people their
Co'-Colas," and the woman went off to get the rest of the order.
"A good man is hard to find," Red Sammy said. "Every- thing
is getting terrible. I remember the day you could go off and leave
10 • Flannery O'Connor
your screen door unlatched. Not no more."
He and the grandmother discussed better times. The old lady
said that in her opinion Europe was entirely to blame for the way
things were now. She said the way Europe acted you would think
we were made of money and Red Sam said it was no use talking
about it, she was exactly right. The children ran outside into the
white sunlight and looked at the monkey in the lacy chinaberry
tree. He was busy catching fleas on himself and biting each one
carefully between his teeth as if it were a delicacy.
They drove off again into the hot afternoon. The
grandmother took cat naps and woke up every few minutes with
her own snoring. Outside of Toombsboro she woke up and recalled
an old plantation that she had visited in this neighborhood once
when she was a young lady. She said the house had six white
columns across the front and that there was an avenue of oaks
leading up to it and two little wooden trellis arbors on either side
in front where you sat down with your suitor after a stroll in the
garden. She recalled exactly which road to turn off to get to it. She
knew that Bailey would not be willing to lose any time looking at
an old house, but the more she talked about it, the more she wanted
to see it once again and find out if the little twin arbors were still
standing. "There was a secret panel in this house," she said craftily,
not telling the truth but wishing that she were, "and the story
went that all the family silver was hidden in it when Sherman
came through but it was never found ..."
"Hey!" John Wesley said. "Let's go see it! We'll find it! We'll
poke all the woodwork and find it! Who lives there? Where do you
turn off at? Hey Pop, can't we turn off there?"
"We never have seen a house with a secret panel!" June Star
shrieked. "Let's go to the house with the secret panel! Hey Pop,
can't we go see the house with the secret panel!"
"It's not far from here, I know," the grandmother said. "It
wouldn't take over twenty minutes."
Bailey was looking straight ahead. His jaw was as rigid as a
A Good Man is Hard to Find • 11
horseshoe. "No," he said.
The children began to yell and scream that they wanted to
see the house with the secret panel. John Wesley kicked the back
of the front seat and June Star hung over her mother's shoulder
and whined desperately into her ear that they never had any fun
even on their vacation, that they could never do what THEY wanted
to do. The baby began to scream and John Wesley kicked the back
of the seat so hard that his father could feel the blows in his kidney.
"All right!" he shouted and drew the car to a stop at the side
of the road. "Will you all shut up? Will you all just shut up for one
second? If you don't shut up, we won't go anywhere."
"It would be very educational for them," the grandmother
"All right," Bailey said, "but get this: this is the only time
we're going to stop for anything like this. This is the one and only
"The dirt road that you have to turn down is about a mile
back," the grandmother directed. "I marked it when we passed."
"A dirt road," Bailey groaned.
After they had turned around and were headed toward the
dirt road, the grandmother recalled other points about the house,
the beautiful glass over the front doorway and the candle-lamp in
the hall. John Wesley said that the secret panel was probably in the
"You can't go inside this house," Bailey said. "You don't know
who lives there."
"While you all talk to the people in front, I'll run around
behind and get in a window," John Wesley suggested.
"We'll all stay in the car," his mother said. They turned onto
the dirt road and the car raced roughly along in a swirl of pink
dust. The grandmother recalled the times when there were no paved
roads and thirty miles was a day's journey. The dirt road was hilly
and there were sudden washes in it and sharp curves on dangerous
embankments. All at once they would be on a hill, looking down
12 • Flannery O'Connor
over the blue tops of trees for miles around, then the next minute,
they would be in a red depression with the dust-coated trees looking
down on them.
"This place had better turn up in a minute," Bailey said, "or
I'm going to turn around."
The road looked as if no one had traveled on it in months.
"It's not much farther," the grandmother said and just as she
said it, a horrible thought came to her. The thought was so
embarrassing that she turned red in the face and her eyes dilated
and her feet jumped up, upsetting her valise in the corner. The
instant the valise moved, the newspaper top she had over the basket
under it rose with a snarl and Pitty Sing, the cat, sprang onto Bailey's
The children were thrown to the floor and their mother,
clutching the baby, was thrown out the door onto the ground; the
old lady was thrown into the front seat. The car turned over once
and landed right-side-up in a gulch off the side of the road. Bailey
remained in the driver's seat with the cat — gray-striped with a broad
white face and an orange nose — clinging to his neck like a
As soon as the children saw they could move their arms and
legs, they scrambled out of the car, shouting, "We've had an
ACCIDENT!" The grandmother was curled up under the
dashboard, hoping she was injured so that Bailey's wrath would
not come down on her all at once. The horrible thought she had
had before the accident was that the house she had remembered so
vividly was not in Georgia but in Tennessee.
Bailey removed the cat from his neck with both hands and
flung it out the window against the side of a pine tree. Then he got
out of the car and started looking for the children's mother. She
was sitting against the side of the red gutted ditch, holding the
screaming baby, but she only had a cut down her face and a broken
shoulder. "We've had an ACCIDENT!" the children screamed in
a frenzy of delight.
A Good Man is Hard to Find • 13
"But nobody's killed," June Star said with disappointment
as the grandmother limped out of the car, her hat still pinned to
her head but the broken front brim standing up at a jaunty angle
and the violet spray hanging off the side. They all sat down in the
ditch, except the children, to recover from the shock. They were
"Maybe a car will come along," said the children's mother
"I believe I have injured an organ," said the grandmother,
pressing her side, but no one answered her. Bailey's teeth were
clattering. He had on a yellow sport shirt with bright blue parrots
designed in it and his face was as yellow as the shirt. The
grandmother decided that she would not mention that the house
was in Tennessee.
The road was about ten feet above and they could see only
the tops of the trees on the other side of it. Behind the ditch they
were sitting in there were more woods, tall and dark and deep. In
a few minutes they saw a car some distance away on top of a hill,
coming slowly as if the occupants were watching them. The
grandmother stood up and waved both arms dramatically to attract
their attention. The car continued to come on slowly, disappeared
around a bend and appeared again, moving even slower, on top of
the hill they had gone over. It was a big black battered hearse-like
automobile. There were three men in it.
It came to a stop just over them and for some minutes, the
driver looked down with a steady expressionless gaze to where they
were sitting, and didn't speak. Then he turned his head and
muttered something to the other two and they got out. One was a
fat boy in black trousers and a red sweat shirt with a silver stallion
embossed on the front of it. He moved around on the right side of
them and stood staring, his mouth partly open in a kind of loose
grin. The other had on khaki pants and a blue striped coat and a
gray hat pulled down very low, hiding most of his face. He came
around slowly on the left side. Neither spoke.
14 • Flannery O'Connor
The driver got out of the car and stood by the side of it,
looking down at them. He was an older man than the other two.
His hair was just beginning to gray and he wore silver- rimmed
spectacles that gave him a scholarly look. He had a long creased
face and didn't have on any shirt or undershirt. He had on blue
jeans that were too tight for him and was holding a black hat and
a gun. The two boys also had guns.
"We've had an ACCIDENT!" the children screamed.
The grandmother had the peculiar feeling that the
bespectacled man was someone she knew. His face was as familiar
to her as if she had known him all her life but she could not recall
who he was. He moved away from the car and began to come
down the embankment, placing his feet carefully so that he wouldn't
slip. He had on tan and white shoes and no socks, and his ankles
were red and thin. "Good afternoon," he said. "I see you all had
you a little spill."
"We turned over twice!" said the grandmother.
"Once," he corrected. "We seen it happen. Try their car and
see will it run, Hiram," he said quietly to the boy with the gray
"What you got that gun for?" John Wesley asked. "Whatcha
gonna do with that gun?"
"Lady," the man said to the children's mother, "would you
mind calling them children to sit down by you? Children make
me nervous. I want all you all to sit down right together there
where you're at."
"What are you telling US what to do for?" June Star asked.
Behind them the line of woods gaped like a dark open mouth.
"Come here," said their mother.
"Look here now," Bailey began suddenly, "we're in a
predicament! We're in . . ."
The grandmother shrieked. She scrambled to her feet and
stood staring. "You're The Misfit!" she said. "I recognized you at
A Good Man is Hard to Find • 15
"Yes'm," the man said, smiling slightly as if he were pleased
in spite of himself to be known, "but it would have been better for
all of you, lady, if you hadn't of reckernized me."
Bailey turned his head sharply and said something to his
mother that shocked even the children. The old lady began to cry
and The Misfit reddened.
"Lady," he said, "don't you get upset. Sometimes a man says
things he don't mean. I don't reckon he meant to talk to you
"You wouldn't shoot a lady, would you?" the grandmother
said and removed a clean handkerchief from her cuff and began to
slap at her eyes with it.
The Misfit pointed the toe of his shoe into the ground and
made a little hole and then covered it up again. "I would hate to
have to," he said.
"Listen," the grandmother almost screamed, "I know you're
a good man. You don't look a bit like you have common blood. I
know you must come from nice people!"
"Yes mam," he said, "finest people in the world." When he
smiled he showed a row of strong white teeth. "God never made a
finer woman than my mother and my daddy's heart was pure gold,"
he said. The boy with the red sweatshirt had come around behind
them and was standing with his gun at his hip. The Misfit squatted
down on the ground. "Watch them children, Bobby Lee," he said.
"You know they make me nervous." He looked at the six of them
huddled together in front of him and he seemed to be embarrassed
as if he couldn't think of anything to say. "Ain't a cloud in the sky,"
he remarked, looking up at it. "Don't see no sun but don't see no
"Yes, it's a beautiful day," said the grandmother. "Listen,"
she said, "you shouldn't call yourself The Misfit because I know
you're a good man at heart. I can just look at you and tell."
"Hush!" Bailey yelled. "Hush! Everybody shut up and let me
16 • Flannery O'Connor
handle this!" He was squatting in the position of a runner about to
sprint forward but he didn't move.
"I prechate that, lady," The Misfit said and drew a little
circle in the ground with the butt of his gun.
"It'll take a half a hour to fix this here car," Hiram called,
looking over the raised hood of it.
"Well, first you and Bobby Lee get him and that little boy to
step over yonder with you," The Misfit said, pointing to Bailey
and John Wesley. "The boys want to ast you some- thing," he said
to Bailey. "Would you mind stepping back in them woods there
"Listen," Bailey began, "we're in a terrible predicament!
Nobody realizes what this is," and his voice cracked. His eyes were
as blue and intense as the parrots in his shirt and he remained
The grandmother reached up to adjust her hat brim as if she
were going to the woods with him but it came off in her hand. She
stood staring at it and after a second she let it fall on the ground.
Hiram pulled Bailey up by the arm as if he were assisting an old
man. John Wesley caught hold of his father's hand and Bobby Lee
followed. They went off toward the woods and just as they reached
the dark edge, Bailey turned and supporting himself against a gray
naked pine trunk, he shouted, "I'll be back in a minute, Mamma,
wait on me!"
"Come back this instant!" his mother shrilled but they all
disappeared into the woods.
"Bailey Boy!" the grandmother called in a tragic voice but
she found she was looking at The Misfit squatting on the ground
in front of her. "I just know you're a good man," she said desperately.
"You're not a bit common!"
"Nome, I ain't a good man," The Misfit said after a second
as if he had considered her statement carefully, "but I ain't the
worst in the world neither. My daddy said I was a different breed
of dog from my brothers and sisters. 'You know,' Daddy said, 'it's
A Good Man is Hard to Find • 17
some that can live their whole life out without asking about it and
it's others has to know why it is, and this boy is one of the latters.
He's going to be into everything!'" He put on his black hat and
looked up suddenly and then away deep into the woods as if he
were embarrassed again. "I'm sorry I don't have on a shirt before
you ladies," he said, hunching his shoulders slightly. "We buried
our clothes that we had on when we escaped and we're just making
do until we can get better. We borrowed these from some folks we
met," he explained.
"That's perfectly all right," the grandmother said. "Maybe
Bailey has an extra shirt in his suitcase."
"I'll look and see terrectly," The Misfit said.
"Where are they taking him?" the children's mother screamed.
"Daddy was a card himself," The Misfit said. "You couldn't
put anything over on him. He never got in trouble with the
Authorities though. Just had the knack of handling them."
"You could be honest too if you'd only try," said the
grandmother. "Think how wonderful it would be to settle down
and live a comfortable life and not have to think about somebody
chasing you all the time."
The Misfit kept scratching in the ground with the butt of
his gun as if he were thinking about it. "Yes'm, somebody is always
after you," he murmured.
The grandmother noticed how thin his shoulder blades were
just behind-his hat because she was standing up looking down on
him. "Do you ever pray?" she asked.
He shook his head. All she saw was the black hat wiggle
between his shoulder blades. "Nome," he said.
There was a pistol shot from the woods, followed closely by
another. Then silence. The old lady's head jerked around. She could
hear the wind move through the treetops like a long satisfied insuck
of breath. "Bailey Boy!" she called.
"I was a gospel singer for a while," The Misfit said. "I been
most everything. Been in the arm service, both land and sea, at
18 • Flannery O'Connor
home and abroad, been twict married, been an undertaker, been
with the railroads, plowed Mother Earth, been in a tornado, seen
a man burnt alive oncet," and he looked up at the children's mother
and the little girl who were sitting close together, their faces white
and their eyes glassy; "I even seen a woman flogged," he said.
"Pray, pray," the grandmother began, "pray, pray ..."
"I never was a bad boy that I remember of," The Misfit said
in an almost dreamy voice, "but somewheres along the line I done
something wrong and got sent to the penitentiary. I was buried
alive," and he looked up and held her attention to him by a steady
"That's when you should have started to pray," she said "What
did you do to get sent to the penitentiary that first time?"
"Turn to the right, it was a wall," The Misfit said, looking
up again at the cloudless sky. "Turn to the left, it was a wall. Look
up it was a ceiling, look down it was a floor. I forget what I done,
lady. I set there and set there, trying to remember what it was I
done and I ain't recalled it to this day. Oncet in a while, I would
think it was coming to me, but it never come."
"Maybe they put you in by mistake," the old lady said vaguely.
"Nome," he said. "It wasn't no mistake. They had the papers
"You must have stolen something," she said.
The Misfit sneered slightly. "Nobody had nothing I wanted,"
he said. "It was a head-doctor at the penitentiary said what I had
done was kill my daddy but I known that for a lie. My daddy died
in nineteen ought nineteen of the epidemic flu and I never had a
thing to do with it. He was buried in the Mount Hopewell Baptist
churchyard and you can go there and see for yourself."
"If you would pray," the old lady said, "Jesus would help
"That's right," The Misfit said.
"Well then, why don't you pray?" she asked trembling with
A Good Man is Hard to Find • 19
"I don't want no hep," he said. "I'm doing all right by myself."
Bobby Lee and Hiram came ambling back from the woods.
Bobby Lee was dragging a yellow shirt with bright blue parrots in
"Thow me that shirt, Bobby Lee," The Misfit said. The shirt
came flying at him and landed on his shoulder and he put it on.
The grandmother couldn't name what the shirt reminded her of.
"No, lady," The Misfit said while he was buttoning it up, "I found
out the crime don't matter. You can do one thing or you can do
another, kill a man or take a tire off his car, because sooner or later
you're going to forget what it was you done and just be punished
The children's mother had begun to make heaving noises as
if she couldn't get her breath. "Lady," he asked, "would you and
that little girl like to step off yonder with Bobby Lee and Hiram
and join your husband?"
"Yes, thank you," the mother said faintly. Her left arm dangled
helplessly and she was holding the baby, who had gone to sleep, in
the other. "Hep that lady up, Hiram," The Misfit said as she
struggled to climb out of the ditch, "and Bobby Lee, you hold
onto that little girl's hand."
"I don't want to hold hands with him," June Star said. "He
reminds me of a pig."
The fat boy blushed and laughed and caught her by the arm
and pulled her off into the woods after Hiram and her mother.
Alone with The Misfit, the grandmother found that she had
lost her voice. There was not a cloud in the sky nor any sun. There
was nothing around her but woods. She wanted to tell him that he
must pray She opened and closed her mouth several times before
anything came out. Finally she found herself saying, "Jesus. Jesus,"
meaning, Jesus will help you, but the way she was saying it, it
sounded as if she might be cursing.
"Yes'm," The Misfit said as if he agreed. "Jesus shown
everything off balance. It was the same case with Him as with me
20 • Flannery O'Connor
except He hadn't committed any crime and they could prove I had
committed one because they had the papers on me. Of course," he
said, "they never shown me my papers. That's why I sign myself
now. I said long ago, you get you a signature and sign everything
you do and keep a copy of it. Then you'll know what you done
and you can hold up the crime to the punishment and see do they
match and in the end you'll have something to prove you ain't
been treated right. I call myself The Misfit," he said, "because I
can't make what all I done wrong fit what all I gone through in
There was a piercing scream from the woods, followed closely
by a pistol report. "Does it seem right to you, lady, that one is
punished a heap and another ain't punished at all?"
"Jesus!" the old lady cried. "You've got good blood! I know
you wouldn't shoot a lady! I know you come from nice people!
Pray! Jesus, you ought not to shoot a lady. I'll give you all the
money I've got!"
"Lady," The Misfit said, looking beyond her far into the
woods, "there never was a body that give the undertaker a tip."
There were two more pistol reports and the grandmother
raised her head like a parched old turkey hen crying for water and
called, "Bailey Boy, Bailey Boy!" as if her heart would break.
"Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead," The Misfit
continued, "and He shouldn't have done it. He shown everything
off balance. If He did what He said, then it's nothing for you to do
but thow away everything and follow Him, and if He didn't, then
it's nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left
the best way you can — by killing somebody or burning down his
house or doing some other meanness to him. No pleasure but
meanness," he said and his voice had become almost a snarl.
"Maybe He didn't raise the dead," the old lady mumbled,
not knowing what she was saying and feeling so dizzy that she
sank down in the ditch with her legs twisted under her.
"I wasn't there so I can't say He didn't," The Misfit said. "I
A Good Man is Hard to Find • 21
wisht I had of been there," he said, hitting the ground with his fist.
"It ain't right I wasn't there because if I had of been there I would
of known. Listen lady," he said in a high voice, "if I had of been
there I would of known and I wouldn't be like I am now." His
voice seemed about to crack and the grandmother's head cleared
for an instant. She saw the man's face twisted close to her own as if
he were going to cry and she murmured, "Why you're one of my
babies. You're one of my own children!" She reached out and
touched him on the shoulder. The Misfit sprang back as if a snake
had bitten him and shot her three times through the chest. Then
he put his gun down on the ground and took off his glasses and
began to clean them.
Hiram and Bobby Lee returned from the woods and stood
over the ditch, looking down at the grandmother who half sat and
half lay in a puddle of blood with her legs crossed under her like a
child's and her face smiling up at the cloudless sky.
Without his glasses, The Misfit's eyes were red-rimmed and
pale and defenseless-looking. "Take her off and thow her where
you shown the others," he said, picking up the cat that was rubbing
itself against his leg.
"She was a talker, wasn't she?" Bobby Lee said, sliding down
the ditch with a yodel.
"She would of been a good woman," The Misfit said, "if it
had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life."
"Some fun!" Bobby Lee said.
"Shut up, Bobby Lee," The Misfit said. "It's no real pleasure
22 • Flannery O'Connor